The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pak roots to 'rape' victim
- Senior player, not Shoaib, under scandal scanner

Calcutta, Jan.22: The woman who has accused a Pakistani cricketer of raping her during last month's Test in Melbourne isn't an Australian but an Asian of Pakistani origin.

According to The Telegraph's sources in Australia and in Pakistan, the accuser is probably in her teens and the needle of suspicion currently points at a 'flamboyant senior'.

Significantly, despite the awful timing of his 'recall' and the whispers, the injured Shoaib Akhtar isn't in the rape-frame.

'It's a coincidence that our decision to send him back was announced on the very day (Friday) the allegation made the print media' In fact, that he may have to return was indicated by me earlier in the week itself,' said manager Haroon Rashid when contacted in Sydney.

Others too confirmed that Shoaib, who has had his share of controversies, isn't under the scanner. He is still in Australia and should be back home early next week.

Officially, of course, the team management insists no player has been identified (Rashid, by the way, has clarified he was 'misquoted' yesterday), but sources are convinced about who exactly is under a cloud at this moment.

That the player had publicly misbehaved with a teenaged girl not many years ago appears to have strengthened the grounds of suspicion.

'With the tri-series underway, the senior seems indispensable and, so, is being protected' Had the allegation involved somebody less experienced, he would have been sent home on the pretext of being unfit,' is how a source put it.

The tri-series concludes on February 8, assuming that all three finals have to be played. After being hammered in the Tests, Pakistan have a 1-1 scoreline going into the day-night game versus Australia tomorrow.

A police complaint hadn't been lodged till late tonight and, given the victim's roots, it won't surprise if she decides not to move the police at all.

Thus far, she has merely sought counselling from the Centre Against Sexual Assault.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), for its part, has advised the team management to hire a lawyer and be in 'regular communication' with the country's high commission in Canberra.

Pakistani diplomats could have to step in and control the damage if the victim eventually decides to substantiate her allegation.

[According to an agency report from Islamabad, PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan has threatened legal action against Australian newspapers carrying 'unsubstantiated' reports. He has also reacted angrily to a section of the media trying to link Shoaib's recall with the woman's allegation.]

With security in Australia (and England, for example) not being of the sub-continental type, it's easy for players to invite guests to their rooms.

Basically, access isn't restricted and the glamorous types invariably attract maidens by the dozens. That bit hasn't ever been a secret.

What happened that evening, however, will only be known if the victim opens up. Till then, we have to be content with a damning allegation and the needle of suspicion pointing at a flamboyant senior.

Incidentally, some years ago, a Pakistani U-19 player was accused of rape during a colts' tour of the West Indies.

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